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Flooding cost Arkansas jobs, $335M net loss in farm income

Arkansas flooding
Spring floods cost nearly 2,150 farm-related jobs. Net loss in farm income estimated at $335 million.

Spring flooding cost Arkansas nearly 2,150 full- and part-time jobs and a $335 million net loss in farm income due to crop damage, according to a study by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Initial estimates of the economic losses due to flooding include a reduction of approximately $102 million in labor income and a decline of $181 million to the gross state product.

The study by economists Brad Watkins, Eric Wailes and Wayne Miller was based on USDA acreage reports as of June 30 and survey information collected from Cooperative Extension Service agents in each county affected by flooding. 

The study does not include potential losses due to the summer’s extended drought.

“We went from extreme flooding to drought and excessively high temperatures this growing season,” Watkins said. “Thus far, these numbers deal only with flood losses and do not include increased irrigation pumping costs and yield losses due to excessive heat and drought conditions.

“We will have a better picture of the total economic losses from flooding and drought as we get closer to the harvest season.”

The losses due to flooding include estimates of expected yield reductions due to the delays in planting based on optimal planting periods provided by Extension crop production specialists.

The state’s rice crop took the biggest hit. At $141.87 million, damage to rice made up nearly half of the $335 million net loss. Farmers in the nation’s leading rice growing state had been expected to reap $398.31 million in net income before the flood.

In other crops:
•      Soybeans took a $60.69 million net loss. The pre-flood net income had been estimated at of $484.01 million.
•      Cotton saw a $44.21 million net loss. Pre-flood income was estimated at $383.71 million.
•      Corn’s net loss was estimated at $37.08 million. Pre-flood income was estimated at $201.42 million.
•      Sorghum’s net loss was estimated at $30.71 million. Pre-flood income from the crop $79.83 million.
•      Wheat saw the smallest net loss, at $20.4 million. Its pre-flood income was expected to be $43.4 million.

Unlike the other crops in the study, winter wheat is planted in November and was well established by the time the floods arrived.

“We would’ve had a record-breaking crop this year if we hadn’t lost several thousand acres of flooding,” said Jason Kelley, Extension wheat and feed grains specialist. “We still had a good year, but it could’ve been so much better without the rainfall.”

Because other activities that contribute to the state’s economy rely on crops, a loss in crops also reduces:
•      Household spending for goods and services.
•      The volume of grain to be transported, stored and processed.
•      The volume of business for industries that supply goods and services to the processors.
•      The number of workers needed for processing, therefore reduces wages and salaries paid.

However, the “extra” activities involved in replanting produced “an offsetting effect on employment and value added due to the purchase of additional resources, including labor and agricultural inputs, to prepare and replant their flooded lands,” Wailes said. In some cases, farmers replanted three to four times as successive waves of storms wiped their fields clean.

More information about the estimate can be found here.

For more information about crop production, disaster preparation or recovery, visit or contact your county Extension agent.

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